Romania’s Social Democratic Party (PSD) leader Liviu Dragnea claims he hasn’t spoken and will not speak to the Prime Minister and justice minister about the emergency ordinances on pardoning and changing the Penal Code. Dragnea, who’s also the Chamber of Deputies’s president and has been exerting strict control over the Sorin Grindeanu cabinet, also says that he hasn’t understood exactly what the Government is trying to do on this matter.
“On this matter (of the two ordinances – e.n.), you have to talk to the Government, with the Prime Minister and justice minister. I too have looked very curiously into these ordinances, after I got back from the U.S., but I haven’t understood very much, exactly what they want to do. I’m also expecting to see a clear line from them. I haven’t spoken to them and I don’t want to speak to them about this,” Dragnea told local Digi24 news station.
Liviu Dragnea was in the U.S. last week, where he attended the events related to Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th U.S. President. Meanwhile, in Bucharest, the Justice Ministry published two emergency ordinance drafts, one aimed at pardoning several thousand convicts and the other bringing some significant changes to the Penal Code.
The two ordinances would help many local politicians, including Dragnea himself, have their sentences pardoned and get cleared of other charges for which they are currently being prosecuted. The changes to the criminal law would also make it almost impossible to prosecute public administration officials for corruption crimes such as conflict of interest and abuse of office.
Local political opinion website cursdeguvernare.ro analyzed the metadata of the two ordinance drafts and found that the final draft of the emergency ordinance on pardoning may have been written on the computer of an employee from Dragnea's cabinet at the Chamber of Deputies.
The Government’s initiative sparked protests in Bucharest and other big cities in Romania. President Klaus Iohannis joined one such protest on Sunday evening, which got some 20,000 people to the streets in Bucharest. He called for a referendum to ask Romanians how they feel about changing the criminal law. He also asked the Government to drop the two ordinances. A new protest is planned in Bucharest on Sunday evening.
However, the Government plans to go ahead with its initiative, despite opposition from the General Prosecutor, chief anticorruption prosecutor, High Court president, and the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM). The Justice Ministry called for a public debate on the two ordinances on Monday, January 30.
Justice minister Florin Iordache said on Thursday that he took responsibility for the two proposals and that he wanted them adopted either by emergency ordinances or by the Government assuming responsibility for them, Digi24 reports. The third option would be a law voted by the Parliament, but this would take longer. At the same time, the MPs would prefer not to get directly involved in this as some of them may benefit from the two measures.
The Parliament would prefer to stay away from this hot potato, especially after the European Commission emphasized in its last CVM report that Romania needed to reach irreversible progress in its justice reform and fight against corruption before the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) would be lifted and the country would benefit from the same treatment as the other EU members.